The Colgate Scene
July 2000
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The state of the other New York
Colgate and international pollster John Zogby have combined resources to take the pulse of upstate New Yorkers
by James Leach

John Zogby
Rudolph Giuliani was still a candidate for the Senate when Colgate Provost Jane Pinchin and internationally recognized social and political researcher John Zogby convened an April press conference to announce the highlights of the first Colgate/Zogby Upstate NY Poll.

     The New York City mayor was besting Hilary Clinton in the minds of a majority of probable voters north of Westchester County, while the first lady held the lead among voters in major cities upstate. That horserace data, however, was only a thin slice of the information that emerged from the first of three planned surveys that will benchmark the attitudes and values of New Yorkers who live in the vast area of the state that is often overshadowed by the happenings in Gotham.

     The idea for the Colgate/Zogby Poll emerged during conversations between Pinchin and Zogby. "Quite frankly, it was a natural," Pinchin told the press. "Our belief is that, together, we can learn more and help educate a larger audience about the values, expectations and beliefs of upstate New Yorkers. We will create and circulate a body of work that will zero in on defining the key issues facing a region that is unrecognized and perhaps underestimated in terms of its size, depth and sophistication."

     Zogby, whose Utica-based firm has an international clientele and reputation, said the poll "is the first undertaking of its kind to look in-depth at life in New York State outside the metropolitan New York and Long Island area. Upstate both sustains a quality of life and confronts issues that make it ripe for study. Upstate represents more than 40 percent of the state's citizens -- a population greater than all but seven U.S. states."

     Once the concept for the study was determined, Colgate faculty and Zogby staff began the collaboration that led to the first survey. A dozen faculty, including political scientists, economists, sociologists, psychologists and geographers, were consulted in constructing the first poll. Robert Elgie, whose course on research methods has become legend during his 23 years at the college, coordinated the faculty input to the survey and contributed a series of questions of his own.

     Political scientist Nina Moore developed a line of questions on race and gender; geographer Ellen Kraly's questions examined immigration issues; economist Takao Kato and sociologist Adam Weinberg used the survey to pursue their ongoing study of upstaters' attitudes and practices related to work. Future surveys will incorporate questions from other faculty members; the August survey, for example, will ask upstaters to assess their civic institutions as part of a study that political scientist Michael Johnston will weave into next year's program for the Center for Ethics and World Societies.

"Our belief is that, together, we can learn more and help educate a larger audience about the values, expectations and beliefs of upstate New Yorkers."      Zogby and his team of researchers contributed their own questions on issues such as political preferences and attitudes about New York City, upstate and the country. They asked respondents to assess their schools, and tested upstate values on issues such as health care, taxes and Social Security. In all the survey comprised nearly 100 questions that were asked of 1,005 randomly selected upstaters, by telephone, over the course of four days.

     "We were drawn to this study because it offers the fascinating prospect of teaching us more about ourselves at the same time that it shines a light on the wonderfully complex mix that is upstate New York," Pinchin said.

     Upstate takes in the region from Buffalo to Albany and from Plattsburgh to Poughkeepsie. The survey includes major metropolitan areas such as Buffalo, Rochester, Albany, Utica and Binghamton, as well as rural farmlands, small towns and suburbs, and residents in the nation's largest state park.

     Results of the poll will be cross-tabulated with other information in the Zogby database to provide a detailed view of upstate. At the same time, Colgate faculty members will be able to work from the data as they develop their own interests in upstate issues.

     Ten Colgate students are gaining firsthand experience working as interns at the Zogby headquarters this summer. During the academic year, Colgate classes will have the opportunity for practicums and research experiences with the Zogby team, and John Zogby will present three talks on campus.

John Zogby, left, and Jane Pinchin, along with professors Michael Johnston, Nina Moore and Bob Elgie, discuss the initial poll results.
Selected findings from the April 25 Colgate/Zogby Upstate NY Poll:

  • Republicans and moderates predominate upstate, but their attitudes are not overwhelming. Upstate communities are typically small or rural, and not especially prosperous. Commuting distances are negligible, and people work for small companies.
  • In late April, Republican presidential hopeful George W. Bush held a six-point lead over Democrat Al Gore.
  • Incumbent Republican Governor George Pataki had a healthy 63.4 percent favorability rating and a majority said he deserves to be re-elected. In a ranking of favorable politicians, Pataki was followed closely by New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, with retiring Democratic Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan in third. Hillary Clinton was fourth; junior senator Charles Schumer was fifth, and HUD Secretary Andrew Cuomo was last.
  • Taxes and the economy/jobs are local issues on the minds of upstaters. Saving Social Security and cutting taxes are top priorities on a national scale.
  • More than seven in ten upstaters say they have an optimistic outlook for New York State, and even more are optimistic about the country's future. When asked about specific topics, however, the outlook appears less rosy. Almost two-thirds of voters regard state government as merely "somewhat responsive." Nearly half say local schools are preparing schoolchildren "reasonably well" for future success; 43.5 percent regard the economic prosperity in their communities as "about average," while nearly two-thirds say their children do not have the potential for finding good jobs locally in the future.
  • More than a third say they are concerned about the high cost of health insurance. Four in ten upstaters prefer to see affordable care for everyone, including families and children, rather than merely focusing on the high cost of prescription drugs, expanding Medicare or helping the uninsured.
  • On education, few people see a conflict between the use of government vouchers in religious or private schools and the Constitutional separation of church and state. Respondents would like to see educational standards raised at the urging of the state, rather than under pressure from the federal government.
  • Environmental protectionism gains wide support. Nearly two-thirds of upstate voters say they would accept higher taxes if it means reduced industrial pollution. By a narrow margin, respondents say American businesses should conform to higher pollution standards and set an example for the rest of the world.
  • Upstate's perceived conservative point of view is evident in a discussion of gun control. Again, conservatives come to the forefront when 75.1 percent of upstaters say that marijuana should not be legalized.
  • If upstate voters themselves can fall into broad generalizations, so can their stereotypical opinion of New York City. As many as 72.8 percent of upstate respondents say they rarely visit the Big Apple, and 94.3 percent would rather live in their hometown than in one of the world's greatest metropolises.
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